What our society calls sacred doctrines must, even if not understood, be “taken on faith”/”at face value”. In the context of religion we were all taught that certain things are simply true and that they should be taken as such without question. As we mature, some of us are simply not capable of taking things on faith. What is left for us and how does that affect our relationships?
On the other hand, acceptance on faith is a form of compensated adulation. People who work in large organizations have been socialized by organizational propaganda and the fact that the organization issues them their checks on payday. They accept the “mission statements” as though they actually had some meaning, which they never do. Like “Codes of Ethics” they are window dressing, the Kool Ade of the group. These people have not become emotionally capable of cross examination of claims even if they might happen to be intellectually capable.
Other forms of compensated adulation are also calculated to engender acceptance. Doctors and lawyers display plaques in their waiting rooms that declare them to be the “Best” “Super Duperest” doctors and lawyers ever. This is supposed to impress patients and make them feel fortunate to have been accepted as patients/clients. Magazines and directories earn tidy sums telling professionals that they are great (for a tidy sum of course), and the “professionals” eat it up, buying adverts. Public relations agents – flacks – do the same foolishness. Newspapers have “social” sections in which the activities of the social elite are regularly reported as though it was important where they ate dinner last night. Kool Ade comes in many flavors. Not all of it is Jonestown suicidal, but none of it is healthful.
Elite military unit members accept each other’s dedication to the benefit of the group on faith more reliable because it is based on experience. This is preceded by intense training and sharing of risks and great peril, often in actual life and death combat situations in which none can survive without the cohesion of the group in the presence of sheer terror. But this is earned faith, and these are our most incredibly unusual, dedicated people – the best we will ever have in our society – willing to die for the idea of what our society is supposed to be. Faith comes in many different guises.
But what of God? How much of what we are taught about creation, evolution, divine cosmicity is reliable? That is fraught with so many variables of age, experience, intellectual capacity, social conditioning, interest in investigating to find reliability in a text, ability to recognize that which can be proven only by indirect evidence. God is not coming to Muldoon’s to buy drinks for us. Nor is God your babysitter, watching over you like a mother hen. You were given free will and a brain. You are required to use them well if you are to avoid misfortune. We see God through the manifestations of creation and extrapolate from that if we are capable. Our legal system accepts indirect/circumstantial evidence as sufficient to meet a beyond reasonable doubt standard. That is the highest evidentiary threshold we have. If we apply that to the evidence of divine manifestation, belief becomes actual knowledge.
One of the mental exercises I use to determine the present of evidence of divine intellect in the process of creation is the extent to which our ideation metrics are or are not reliable. Illustrative of this is an examination of the word “invent”. The Cambridge English dictionary defines “invent” as “to design or create something that did not previously exist”. Inasmuch as there is a real problem with the reliability of the use of the word “create”, that calls into question the process by which language and thought proceed from there to conceptual error.
I dispute that anyone ever creates anything. What we call “invent” is a process by which things that are already here are used in novel ways. There is nothing on earth that is not the product of discovering ways to use what is already here in new ways to format or construct something new. Everything new is, therefore, the product of the combination of existing matter or force/energy to generate novel products and processes. The fundamental elements of design and origination all use what has always been here as their building blocks. That is indisputable.
Given that, one does not create anything new. One may design something new out of resources already in existence, and that is the limit of capability even for our greatest geniuses.
All the elements of any invention, therefore, have always existed on earth awaiting the discovery of how to use them in new processes or products. How did they get here? To me the only rational explanation is that the condition of universal resource availability bespeaks a cosmic intellect. Every religion on the planet – all of humanity – has always considered its ultimate deity to be all knowing. That is a sine qua non of divinity. Others posit that everything is the product of mindless scatter rather than creation, denying creationism.
To deny creationism is to miss the point. Creationism and evolution both begin at a creative impulse and proceed from there through development over time (evolution). Creationism and evolution must be the same story. There can be no possible other explanation in any logical construct. A totality of requirements for millions of years of evolution cannot happen from uncontrolled and random explosive force. It is too perfect for it to be the product of accident. Denial cannot be explained in any credible manner. I do not accept mere contentions that cannot be corroborated through demonstration. Neither does any scientist on earth.
This is the kind of forensic cross examination that one must use to sift the ultimate truths of religious belief from the mass of social propaganda thrown into the biblical mix by maladjusted, male dominant social customs. God did not write the Bible. Men wrote it and incorporated their social customs characterized as God mandated writ. Nonsense!
I am not alone in the forensic questioning of Bible mandates. So many could not possibly have originated with cosmic intelligence. For example, the misogynistic treatment of women is simply not explainable in any logical configuration. That an intelligent, capable woman should have to be subordinated to a lesser light man simply because of the gender difference is intellectually intolerable.
Thomas Jefferson did something like this, expunging less useful portions of biblical text. For a comparison you may order The Jefferson Bible and see for yourself how he did it.
None of the material that is not capable of respectability is ever directly attributed to Christ. Christ was never a male preference messenger. What is directly attributed to Jesus is in just about every instance the very soul of equity and insight.
In the instance of John’s Gospel, for example, Jesus provides an explicit ecumenical directive. He is attributed with statements that inform that the Jewish people are not the only flock blessed by entitlement to salvation – “Other sheep have I, not of this fold”. Similarly the ultimate ecumenical statement “All men are brothers”. Finally, “In my father’s house there are many mansions” – room for all the cultures of which the adherents are brothers, each group its own mansion. The Jewish claim to be the chosen people; the Catholic claim to exclusive entitlement to salvation; the Episcopalian attitude toward others in Texas in its early days as a new state - “We’re the sweet elected few. The rest of you be damned. There’s room in hell for all of you. We can’t have heaven crammed” are all absurd per se.
These and similar exquisite examples of divine intellectual equity are the reliable characterizations of Jesus, not the portion of Genesis in which the woman is punished for leading a man to secular enlightenment. And certainly not Paul’s admonition to brides in Second Corinthians that the man is head of the family as Christ is head of the church, and women must be obedient and also keep silent in church. Such utter nonsense never emanated from God.
Similarly, Christian theologians use prefiguration – a bridging technique to tie the New Testament to the Old, for the purpose of extending the imprimatur of the Old Testament to Christian doctrine. Illustratively the tree of knowledge in Genesis is said to prefigure the Cross on Calvary. The impalement by Moses in Exodus of a serpent on a stick is said to prefigure the crucifixion – “Cursed are they who hang on wood”. The validity of the use of prefiguration cannot be stopped at the end of the New Testament. If it is a reliable construct, the admonition in John’s Gospel that there are other sheep would clearly prefigure Islam. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the three Abrahamic religions. They all contend for the identical principles with only cultural nuancing to differentiate them. According to Deuteronomy and Judges, Israelites were empowered by God to treat the towns, villages and tribes they encountered in their voyage out of Egypt in precisely the same manner as ISIS now treats those it encounters on its path to an Islamic Caliphate.
The most rational explanation of these three religions is that they are all chapters of the same book.
By the time we begin to think of eternal matters intellectually, we have already become cynical if we have any intelligence at all. We have been taught by lesson and by experience to disbelieve, even if on Sunday we pretend that we believe by reciting words written by others that have no personal meaning for us whatsoever.
The significance of that is that as we grow we can move from blind “faith” to the intellectual appreciation of what is physically before us that suggests beyond a reasonable doubt the presence of divine intellect.
It is requisite that as young people we be taught to accept things on faith. As we mature we will come to question much of what we were taught. It is rather predicted in the Book of Genesis. The tree of life/knowledge and its fruit represent secular skepticism, that departure from the acceptance of innocence, that questioning that removes us from the realm of the exploitable into sentient rationality. That single development is what religious institutions oppose the most. With skepticism one may not control the minds of others.
It is crucial that the young be taught to accept on faith, as that is the only dimension at which they can then become aware. One cannot later question and assess that of which one is not even aware. Faith and rationalism are not contradictory doctrines. Rather they are integrated psychic relationships representing growth progression. As the process of discovery brings more and more joy when the lights go off in our heads upon reliable discoveries, the appetite for detached assessment grows. The process becomes a means of intense psychic revenue for the more gifted amongst us.
Per contra, it also brings us into conflict with the institutional imperatives associated with mind control. The more one questions, the more liberated the mind becomes. The more one’s mind self liberates, the greater the angst of templated institutions, like organized religion, that fear the impact of secular reason upon the reliability of their revenue streams. Religious leaders see in the process a simile to the story in Genesis where, so they preach, enlightenment flowing from Adam and Eve’s experience is punished as evil by a righteous God. That, to me, is a perfect demonstration of the falsity of preachments. People who think there is a difference between a religious organization and General Motors simply have not thought it through. GM had to deal with competition from the Ford Mustang and from Honda, and organized religion has to master the art of survival in a world in which its leaders have to become intellectually superb. As churches deny “the devil” his due, GM denied that the new competition was real competition. The level of the minds of today’s clergy is abominably poor. Moreover, it has been declining steadily for more than a century.
To be sure, this joyous process of liberation from templated thought will not equally be available to everyone. Just as some are more competent than others in every other field, enlightenment through competent cross examination of concepts will come mainly to our best and brightest. The issues will then morph into how do the more insightful people manage to lead the less capable? A demonstration of that issue is before us today in our presidential election cycle. Cynical opportunists mesmerize our less insightful into adhering to what is loudest because they are incapable of objective evidentiary assessment. They don’t know how to discover the underlying truth or falsity of positions taken. Desperate, angry, ignorant people are more easily misled.
The intersections of faith and reason are all beautiful and dangerous places. Beauty and danger are the essence of all realities. Courage and desire are the driving attributes of those able to appreciate reality from the evidence that may easily be observed.
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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